Airline eyes direct flight from Atlanta | AspenTimes.com

Airline eyes direct flight from Atlanta

ASPEN ” Delta Air Lines executives are in early discussions with local aviation officials to bring a direct flight from Atlanta to Aspen.

Local officials recently pitched the direct route to Delta executives in the airline’s hub city, Atlanta. Management on all levels of the airline seemed receptive to the idea that Aspen could make Delta stronger in the national and international markets.

Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass and the local liaison to the airline industry, said he and Aspen-Pitkin County Airport Director Jim Elwood met with Delta officials Oct. 17 in Atlanta.

“It was an incredibly productive meeting,” he said.

Even so, the aircraft Delta would use ” the CRJ-700 ” has weight restrictions limiting the number of passengers it could carry on the 1,304-mile trip from Atlanta to Aspen.

United’s daily flight from Chicago to Aspen ” which is 1,013 miles ” pushes the envelope similarly in that it can’t always sell a full plane, which also is a CRJ-700.

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But because the flight is so popular, United has decided to increase its daily flights this winter from two to three, with a fourth on Saturdays.

“That flight was profitable enough to increase it this winter,” Tomcich said.

Delta executives are contemplating whether it’s economically feasible to bring daily flights into Aspen from Atlanta, which would expand Delta’s reach into the international market.

Now that Delta will offer direct flights from Paris to Salt Lake City this spring, airline executives want to capitalize on Delta’s Salt Lake-to-Aspen route.

“It’s a logical next step for Delta to make it easier for international travelers to get to Aspen,” Tomcich said.

United, which has partnerships with a host of international airlines, offers flights to 117 destinations in 26 countries, and two U.S. territories. United uses its direct Chicago flight to Aspen for many international travelers.

“The weakness of Delta is its global network,” Tomcich said. “This would open Aspen to international markets. We pitched them on that possibility, and they are looking at the feasibility.”

Tomcich couldn’t say when that decision could come, except to say it would be “soon.”

Delta began the Salt Lake-to-Aspen route in June 2006 with one daily flight. By mid-summer last year, that increased to two daily flights and eventually turned into year-round service, Tomcich said. This winter season, Delta will offer three daily flights, with a fourth flight on Saturdays.

Delta, the nation’s No. 3 airline, filed for bankruptcy in September 2005. Delta emerged from a 19-month reorganization in April.

Carolyn Sackariason’s e-mail address is csack@aspentimes.com.

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